12 Tips for Work at Home Moms of Babies and Toddlers

Working from home is both amazing and amazingly stressful. You get to be home with your kids while contributing to the family income, but you also have to do the work of contributing to the family income while taking care of your kids. It’s awesome and hard all at the same time.

Woman sitting on couch with laptop on her lap and feet on ottoman.

I’ve been there and done that through all three of my kids – two essentially regular kids and one kid with complex medical needs – and I’m here to share my wisdom! Take what you can use, leave the rest.

Establish a predictable rhythm

Notice I didn’t say “schedule.” I think every other “how to be a work at home mom” article I’ve ever read tells you to get that baby on a schedule. But I am one of those moms who doesn’t believe babies operate on a schedule, and I don’t operate on one, either. But you’ll both do better with a predictable rhythm to your day.

How do you establish this? Start with any hard and fast regular time commitments. Need to start dinner around 4:30? Like to get out of bed at 6 am? Whatever your established times are, build your day’s natural flow into that. First breakfast, then personal care, then play time with the baby, then a short work period, then lunch, then more work time with breaks as needed, then start dinner at 4:30. You don’t need a schedule with set times, which can lead to feeling overwhelmed and behind, but having a predictable rhythm has several benefits. First, it helps your child(ren) know what to expect from the day. Second, it helps ensure you do the things you need to do. If you always do work after lunch, it just becomes a habit and you’re less likely to put it off and get backed up in your work. Third, it gives you a general sense of how your day will go. If your child is generally quiet and content in the afternoons, for example, you know this is the best time to work, and this is NOT a good time to schedule a pediatrician appointment.

Plan to be interrupted

I mean, it’s just going to happen. When kids are young (babies, young toddlers), they literally cannot wait patiently. In my experience, when I was working while caring for babies and young toddlers, things seemed to go easier, better, and faster if I just accepted the interruption immediately and handled whatever it was. A feed, or a diaper change, or some interaction. Feed the baby while they’re still relatively happy, and all you have to do is feed them. Wait until they’re really unhappy about it, and now you have to calm them down AND feed them – your interruption is twice as long. (Yes, I’m kind of referring to your kid as an interruption.)

Plan for uninterrupted times

As your baby gets older, naptimes will start to become less frequent but longer. Have a plan so you don’t waste this precious time! Plan in advance what you’re going to do at naptime. Then as soon as you can sneak away from them, run – don’t walk – and get ‘er done.

If you need longer stretches of uninterrupted time, you’ll have to make it happen with the help of someone else. Grandma, a friend, another work at home mom with whom you trade childcare, your spouse, a paid sitter. Personally, I found that it worked best for me to get the kiddo to sleep at night then sneak away and work until he/she woke up for his/her first night feed. It was usually several hours. We coslept so my husband was right there with them and could take care of any non-breast needs if they should arise. Working in the middle of the night may not be ideal, but it worked well for us.

Woman working on a laptop in bed.

Get and stay organized

Keep a good to-do list. Keep your supplies well-organized. Keep your workspace organized. Keep a good, current calendar, and use email folders and labels, and all of those time management and organization tips. I know this doesn’t come naturally to some people, but let’s look at two people I know well. (OK, it’s me and my husband.)

One of us maintains a to do list. Several, actually. When I get up in the morning, I know exactly how I’m going to spend my work time that day. I also know what non-work tasks I need to accomplish. I mentally budget my time so I know, for example, that if I want to shower before dinner, I need to wrap up my work by 5:30. And I know that means I need to plan to wrap up by 5. When I’m working, I start at the top of my list and work my way down. While I’m finishing up one task, I look at what’s next and start mentally planning what I need for that. I move from one thing to the next thing to the next thing. And when I need tools, they’re right where I expect them to be, because I put them away when I was done using them.

The other of us does not use a to do list. Well, sometimes he does. In his head. He gets up and thinks about what he’s going to do for a while. Then he goes to see if he can find the things he needs to do whichever thing sounds best to him. That usually takes a while, and half the day’s usually gone by the time he’s gotten started. Once he’s finished one task, he sits down somewhere to decide what to do next. An hour later, he starts the next thing. He has no plan, so he doesn’t get as much done because he spends so much time trying to plan in the moment.

I’m not saying one way is better than the other… but one way is definitely more productive.

Make your workspace safe

Make your workspace safe for your baby or toddler and establish a special spot for them. Before my babies were able to crawl, I had a soft pad on the floor of my office and I dangled toys for them to play with from various office equipment. As they started rolling and scooting, we moved more toys down to my office, and as they became toddlers, they each had their own special spot in my office with crayons and a chalkboard, dolls and cars, whatever they were into.

I also caged them in, but not in a tiny playpen, which gets boring fast and isn’t quite what toddlers need developmentally. When my office was a more or less open space, I bought one of those long plastic modular baby fences and strung it up all around my area. When I moved my office into a room with a better doorway, we used a regular baby gate. I knew my office area was 100% safe for them, and I knew they couldn’t get out, so I could work in peace knowing they were safe and nearby.

Having them in your workspace also allows you to maintain verbal contact if you’re doing something that allows for that, which is a nice way to stay involved and interactive with your kids while still getting your work done. I primarily sew, so I can carry on a conversation with my kids while still working.


Nursing time is a great time to catch up on social media (if you do that as part of your work), to read relevant articles, or even to do desk work like accounting or blogging. It all depends on your breasts and your baby, though. I was always able to work with at least one hand while nursing (after that floppy head newborn stage), but some moms are not able to make this work. Try using a My Breast Friend pillow if you find you need more hands.

Yes, ideally, breastfeeding is a time of bonding and eye contact. Until your baby hits that stage where they’re distracted by everything. During that stage, I found that I basically had to ignore them if I wanted them to eat at all, otherwise it was an hour of smiles and spraying breastmilk around the room, but no actual eating took place.


I know moms who work from home and don’t babywear, but it’s so much easier with a carrier or two. I’ve used my carriers to enable me to:

  • wear and bounce an unhappy teething or sick baby while typing by elevating my laptop so I could easily reach it while standing, or by sitting and bouncing on an exercise ball.
  • Hold a child through his nap so he’ll stay asleep longer while I continue to work at my desk or my sewing machine.
  • Comfort a toddler who’s having one of those days when they just want to be held, but I have a hard deadline and can’t devote a day to JUST snuggles.
  • And of course all of the NOT work related uses.


Regular exercise helps you work better. Be mindful about giving your body attention – stretch, do some squats, take 3 minutes and jog in place. If you have toddlers, have a dance party with them, or run around the couch a few times. Babies and toddlers are pretty easy to exercise with!

A baby plays on the floor


Do NOT get so focused on your work that you neglect the children that you’re staying home for. It’s so easy to get into this “ok, I’ll read to you after I do this. And this. And this.” But, much like with feeding and diaper changes, I found it worked better to stop what I was doing as soon as practical and take care of the need for attention right away. Not only did this reinforce to my kids that they are more important than work, but it also helped me be more productive when I was working. We kept a small stack of favorite books in my office, and the kids would grab one and climb up in my lap for a quick read a few times a day, which was enjoyable for us both. (And I can still recite my 15 year old’s favorite book from this time, lol. It was called A Little Spot of Color.)

Help your older toddlers learn about waiting

There are plenty of resources out there that can help you with this, but I started by simply teaching my children the ASL sign for “wait.” I started by choosing times when I was available immediately, and consciously chose to ask them (nonverbally) to wait, then waiting about 5 seconds before looking at them and addressing their need. I gradually lengthened this, and when that was going well, I added “can you wait five minutes?” to our repertoire. I tried not to push them beyond their capabilities, while stretching them JUST enough.

Using a visual timer can help a lot, too. I have a whole blog post about visual timers you might want to check out. Toddlers struggle with time concepts, and waiting even one minute can feel like forever, but if you use a visual timer, it helps them see the time passing.

Help your older toddlers play alone

Again, lots of parenting resources out there, but what worked for me was sitting down with my toddler to play, but letting them know that I’d need to stop after a little bit so I could do some more work while they kept playing. We’d play for a bit, then I’d stop playing but stay with them, then I’d get up and go back to work and let them play for a bit.

Stop Working

You can’t always be working. You have to not be working sometimes. Establish hard and fast rules for this for yourself. Do you have a morning playtime with your kids? No working during this time, not even if your phone chimes that you have a new message.

Are you enjoying dinner with your family? Again, no working during this time.

You cannot be available to your clients/customers/bosses 24 hours a day. Establish rules for when you are unavailable and stick to them. Reassess how you’re doing with this regularly.

Pinnable image for this blog post


A little break

I’ve been working some pretty long hours recently in an effort to move through my Customs list and also manage to get a few items finished for inventory. But! I’m going to be taking a little break in a few weeks and I wanted to let you know how that will impact you.

Truth is, it won’t impact you much. 🙂

I’m going to process orders this weekend as usual. Then next week, I’ll process orders on Wednesday (June 4), and then I’ll turn off my computer that night and I won’t turn it on again until June 14 or 15. I’ll similarly ignore (or try to ignore) posts to Facebook and private messages on Facebook.

I cannot possibly imagine anyone needing anything urgently that cannot wait for a week, but if there’s something you feel needs to be addressed immediately, Facebook is probably the best way to reach me. (https://www.facebook.com/wallypopIA)

The current situation at Wallypop

It’s been a while since I updated what’s going on around here.

First, a bit of background. Our 2 year old, Teddy, was born with kidney failure. On July 18, 2013, he received a kidney transplant. Though we had some initial bumps, the last two or three months have been remarkably smooth, and we’re hopeful that we might be able to have a few years of healthy, normal life. However, kidney transplant kids tend to have a remarkably high rate of hospital admissions, and these admissions can come out of nowhere. I can’t predict these admissions, and we will continue to work under the caveat that I may have to close things down briefly with very little notice.

Please order with confidence! As always, I have contingency plans in place for sudden hospitalizations, and I’m not going to run off with your money. I try my best to stay in contact with customers whose orders end up in limbo, and I have friends who can come in and complete your orders if needed. All custom work, as explained at the time a customer originally requests a custom spot, is simply put on hold for the duration of any admission.

Teddy’s medical needs are still such that a considerable part of my day is spent doing things with him that “regular” toddlers just don’t need – on top of all the regular toddler stuff. We also still have a considerable number of doctor’s appointments, therapy appointments, etc. I’m still working reduced hours compared to my “pre Teddy” schedule, and keeping slightly lower inventory levels.

I process and mail orders once a week (usually over the weekend). I try to answer emails and phone calls two or three times a week. I am not in my office every day. Generally speaking, I can’t promise to respond to your emails within 24 hours. Even beyond Teddy’s needs, we are a family of five. A family of five who sometimes get sick, leave town, have a few remarkably busy days, etc. I work in my basement, not in an office. I work around my family, not apart from them. If it is really important to you to order from a business that will respond to any communication immediately, then I would respectfully suggest that we are not the right place for you. If it’s really important to you to order from a business that is run by a human who works really hard to provide you with amazingly awesome products at reasonable prices, then I’d suggest you’re in exactly the right place!

Please do not ever feel bad about emailing, calling, asking me to make something for you, placing a special order, or emailing to check on status of your order. That’s why I’m open! If it’s taking longer than you think it should to receive a response, by all means, contact us again – things do get overlooked from time to time. But also please remember that I’m just simply not available to Wallypop 24 hours a day.

Ups and Downs of Craft Business Ownership

I was clearing out some old email today, and got to thinking about the challenges of owning a craft-related business. Or any business, really, but these were mostly emails from Boulevard Designs.

The customer service issues are what particularly vex or delight me. It’s apparently very important to me that people like me, and I have difficulty with the very sage advice dished out in Purple Cow, which I’m currently reading. “You are not your product.” I think it’s easier for people who don’t physically create their own products to distance themselves from their creations. It’s one thing to design something and then have a factory make it for you. It is quite another to design something and then put it together yourself, in your basement, with your children playing at your feet and your husband calling you to come eat dinner already.

I try to overdeliver. I usually try not to purposefully underpromise, but I do try to deliver better than promised. I do not always succeed, and have managed to be fairly kind to myself on those occasions when I do make mistakes. Most of the time, customers are also very forgiving.

But sometimes, I am surprised, as well. One time, I shipped an order to address indicated on the PayPal payment (which is Blvd Designs policy), and then received a complaint because the buyer had wanted it to go elsewhere (and had apparently indicated such when she checked out, right at the same time that she would have seen the message that I ship to the PP Payment address no matter what)*. I explained how that had happened, the purchaser realized where we went wrong, and said it wasn’t that big of a deal, and she LOVED the item. Then she gave me negative feedback. I was practically crushed by this.

Contrast this, though, with a LARGE package I accidentally sent to the wrong address. In another country. And missing an entire line of her address. I mean, talk about mistakes. Holy cow, I was physically ill over that one. And the customer was so gracious. We both kept a close eye on the tracking information, and the package did eventually arrive at her house. She even offered to pay for the difference in shipping, which I refused.

I’ve had customers complain because I delivered their orders earlier than promised. I’ve had customers complain because I shipped their orders as promised, but they wanted them sooner, even though getting them sooner would have necessitated Devine intervention. I’ve had customers (rightly) complain when their orders arrive later than promised or expected. And I’ve had customers who were more than overly forgiving of mistakes, who go out of their way to be accommodating, who are understanding when I’m out of their first choice of product, and their second, as well.

It’s definitely interesting, owning your own business, and having your hands involved in every single aspect of that business. There’s no one else to blame when things go wrong. There’s nobody to back me up, nobody to take the heat, nobody to help solve a problem, nobody to share the workload. But there’s also nobody else to take the credit, to share the glory, or to share the sense of pride in a job well done.

*Note that I’ve since changed the policy.

WAHM vs Factory Diapers

Why should I buy WAHM diapers when I can buy cloth diapers made in China for so cheap?

This is something I increasingly hear out in “the general public.”

Why support a WAHM, instead of buying from a factory?

– You’re supporting another family like yours, instead of a big faceless corporation. You’re helping that family pay their mortgage, or send their kids to dance classes, or eat dinner.

– You’re buying quality you just can’t find in something made in a factory.

– You get unparallelled customer service, because when you email or call, you’re usually talking to the owner.

– You’re keeping your money in your community, if you buy from local WAHMs.

– You’re supporting a small (micro) business. Small businesses are so vital to the health of our economy. Many people assume that *other* people are supporting the small businesses in their communities, and then are saddened when they learn that yet another small local business has closed because everyone else in the area was, like them, going to a national chain instead. They just assumed that the business would always be there. Small local businesses won’t be around forever if we don’t support them by shopping there!

– Generally speaking, you’re saving money. Many factory diapers are not using the top quality materials, and their products fail more quickly than many WAHM brands do. Over the life of your children, you save money by buying quality. (Trust me, for nearly a decade, I repaired diapers as part of Wallypop, and I never repaired a WAHM diaper. I repaired mostly the popular factory diapers, and they fell apart shockingly quickly.)

Jan Andrea from Sleeping Baby Productions has a great article on WAHM baby carriers, and I couldn’t agree more with what she says. It also applies to diapers. She lists out many of the factors that go into the price of the item, and concludes by saying, “In the United States, we’re used to buying things at essentially slave-labor prices. Clothes and accessories that are made in China, Taiwan, the Philippines, and many other eastern countries are priced far below what they really ought to be, if the people making them were earning a fair wage. Instead, we’re able to purchase t-shirts for $5, jeans for $10, etc., not because they’re not well-made, but because the people making them are earning less than $1 per day in many cases. (Not to mention that the people selling them are often earning little more than minimum wage themselves!) Among the many other problems this causes, it also breeds a mindset that price is everything. If it can’t be had for cheap, we don’t want it.”

Ultimately, though, it really just comes down to a choice on the part of the consumer.

I personally prefer to buy my stuff from *people* instead of *companies* when possible. I prefer to buy things made by humans instead of machines when possible. I prefer to support families and mom business owners instead of companies and overseas factory owners when possible. When I spend my money, I want to support other families like mine, if possible.

And I know others just want to buy the dirt cheapest items they can. I can respect that to a certain extent. Everyone has to make choices of what’s most important to them, and some just aren’t in a position to be able to support small, local businesses or to make purchase decisions that save money in the long run, because they need to save money in the short-term. I’ve been there, I understand that.

But if you’re in a position to be able to choose to support work at home moms and dads for part of your purchases, I’d strongly encourage you do to so!